Boys Soccer – CBA Cements No. 1 Spot in Shore Sports Network Top 10
This is the first Top 10 since the end of the Shore Conference Tournament and last before the NJSIAA Tournament, which means the next time there is a new set of rankings, there are teams on this week’s list whose season will be over. It is only a small fraction of the season, but the tournaments – both the Shore Conference and upcoming NJSIAA Tournaments – are when teams have a chance to make their strongest case for the final Top 10.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (15-1, 6-1) Last Week: 1
The Colts wrapped up their 12th Shore Conference Tournament championship and second in a row by beating Class A North foes Middletown North and Howell in back-to-back rounds – both by a 2-1 score. The run through the SCT was not as easy this year as it was last year, when CBA did not concede a goal in four tournament games. The Colts also had to play the last three rounds of the 2022 tournament without All-Shore senior standout Will Thygeson, who is hoping to be ready for the NJSIAA Tournament after battling a hamstring strain.
2. Howell (11-3-2, 5-2-0) Last Week: 2
The Rebels were somewhat of a surprise as the team that ascended to the No. 2 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament, but they continued to prove themselves worthy at every turn, including in the tournament itself. Howell was fortunate to get past Manasquan and Rumson-Fair Have on penalties in each of the first two SCT rounds, but found its groove in the second half of a 3-1 semifinal win over Holmdel. Now the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group IV, the Rebels will try to chase down an elusive sectional championship.
3. Rumson-Fair Haven (10-3-2, 5-1-0) Last Week: 7
After some uneven results early, Rumson has authored a season worthy of a top-five spot in the Shore rankings and it certainly appears as though the Bulldogs are hitting their stride heading into the NJSIAA Tournament. In the Shore Conference Tournament alone, they beat a surging Jackson Memorial team in convincing fashion, handled Middletown South, then pushed Howell to the limit before dropping the decision on penalty kicks. Rumson also has a straight-up win over Holmdel and a recent win over Long Branch, so the resume is shaping up to be an impressive one if the Bulldogs have another sectional title run in them this year.
4. Holmdel (14-2-1, 5-1-0) Last Week: 4
The second half of the Shore Conference Tournament semifinal against Howell got away from the Hornets, but they since bounced back with wins over Toms River North and Neptune heading into the state tournament, in which Holmdel will be the No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group II section. While there are some impressive teams in Group II, the field is shaping up to favor a hot team more than a dominant one and the Hornets have all the pieces to win six more games and take home a third state championship in six years.
5. Freehold Township (10-6, 4-3) Last Week: 3
After rattling off eight straight wins, Freehold Township has gone 2-3 and enters the NJSIAA Tournament on a three-game losing streak in which the Patriots have not scored any goals. Still, Freehold Township has taken down the likes of Rumson, Marlboro, Middletown North, Point Boro and Greater Middlesex Conference champion Old Bridge along the way and went to overtime with both CBA and Howell. It can be a little uncomfortable for a team to enter the tournament on a losing streak, but it is also a chance – in this case for the defending sectional champion – to start fresh.
6. Marlboro (7-3-4, 4-3-0) Last Week: 5
It took a round of penalty kicks for Holmdel to eliminate Marlboro from the Shore Conference Tournament, giving the Mustangs another positive result against a top team from the Shore Conference. Marlboro has squared off against every team ranked ahead of it and is 2-1-2 in those games with wins over the top two teams in the conference and draws against Nos. 3 and 4. Playing as many close games as Marlboro has should have the Mustangs ready for the grind of the state tournament, but as the SCT showed, it is very difficult to walk the tightrope every game.
7. Colts Neck (9-4-1, 6-1-0) Last Week: 8
The Cougars have been inching up the rankings all season long and after a trip to the SCT quarterfinal, where they lost to champion CBA, they will go into the state tournament with an opportunity to win a second sectional title in three years and the program’s first full-season sectional championship since 2000. Colts Neck ran through the Class B North division after an early loss to Long Branch, but at 0-3-1 vs. Monmouth County teams outside the division, the Cougars are still on the outside looking in at the top five.
8. Middletown North (7-7-1, 2-5-0) Last Week: 10
The Lions stepped into the Shore Conference Tournament with a .500 record and made it all the way to the semifinals of the tournament for the first time since 2004. Now, they will head into the NJSIAA Tournament with a .500 record looking to do similar damage in the Central Jersey Group III section. With no Class A North teams other than crosstown rival Middletown South in the way, Middletown North should be a dangerous opponent in the field.
9. Long Branch (8-4-3, 4-1-2) Last Week: Not ranked
Long Branch has tested itself throughout the season against the likes of Westfield, Rumson, Middletown North, Point Boro on top of the B North division schedule and now, the Green Wave will put themselves up against the ultimate test of the Group IV Tournament. In each of the last two full seasons, Long Branch has been to a sectional championship game and is still searching for its elusive sectional championship.
10. Point Pleasant Boro (10-2-3, 6-0-1) Last Week: 6
After a heartbreaking loss to Long Branch in the Shore Conference Tournament, Point Boro is regrouped and ready for the Group II playoffs and a deep Central Jersey field that is littered with state-title contenders. The Panthers are among those teams, with wins over Rumson and Middle Township to demonstrate what they are capable of over the next two weeks.
Neptune (11-4-1, 4-2-1) Last Week: 9 – An early exit from the Shore Conference Tournament has Neptune aware of the perils of tournament time and the Scarlet Fliers will have a real shot a redemption in Central Jersey Group III.
Top 10 Watchlist
Manasquan (11-5-1, 4-3-0) – With a strong showing the Shore Conference Tournament and an impressive performance in a rivalry win over Wall, the Warriors look ready to roll for the state tournament.
Toms River East (8-4-3, 5-1-1) – It was a winding road to get there, but the Raiders made it to the top of the Class A South standings and appear to be playing their best soccer at the right time.
Toms River North (9-3-1, 5-1-1) – It is not the same team, but the Mariners are a three-time defending sectional champion and will not be an easy out in South Jersey Group IV.
Middletown South (7-7-1, 4-2-1) – The Eagles have gone toe-to-toe with a wide array of quality opponents and that tough schedule has them ready for the Central Jersey Group III bracket.
Wall (8-6-2, 5-1-0) – Although it has endured its share of losses, Wall showed it is a tournament-ready team by beating Ocean in the SCT and playing Holmdel and Rumson tough.
Manalapan (7-6-2, 2-4-1) – With wins over Colts Neck and Middletown North heading into the state tournament, Manalapan could very well be a sleeper in Central Jersey Group IV.
Southern (8-5, 4-3) – Since a 0-3 start, Southern is 8-2 with an overtime loss to CBA and a 1-0 win at Freehold Township.
Toms River South (9-5, 5-2) – A 4-0 loss to Toms River East and a missed chance to win the Class A South division title is a difficult pill to swallow heading into the state tournament, but Toms River South had a very good showing in the Shore Conference Tournament and will tap into that experience later this week.
Ocean (7-7-1, 4-3-0) – The Spartans’ best wins came at the beginning of the season against Neptune and Long Branch and those are the kind of teams Ocean will have to go through to make a run in Central Jersey Group III.
Central (8-5-1, 4-3-0) – The Golden Eagles have built some momentum heading into the NJSIAA Tournament with a tie vs. St. Rose and wins over Jackson Liberty and Lacey in their last three matches.
Jackson Liberty (10-4-2, 6-0-1) – With a share of the Class B South championship already in the bag, Jackson Liberty will look to add to its best season ever with a run in Central Jersey Group III.